Twitter best practices


Social Media Overload — Thoughts on Hitting the Wall.

Sometimes it feels like my social media presence is about to fall off a cliff.

Over the past months I’ve shared my journey as I’ve slowly figured things out. How to save time blogging. Build a community. Little tips I’ve learned through trial and error.

But I’ve come to a place that is uncomfortable and frankly, I don’t see a way out. To describe my experience at this point, I’d have to use the word “stressed.”

I can’t keep up with Twitter

… at least not in the same way that I always have … in a way that I have enjoyed and advocated. I am now up to nearly 15,000 followers. And many of them are very active, very engaging followers, too.

For me, the most fun thing about Twitter was engaging with a new follower: seeing where they’re from, what they say about themselves, clicking on their link, assessing if we had anything in common, and imagining ways we could connect — or not. For reasons I can’t totally explain, I’m now getting more than 1,000 new followers each month. I simply don’t have the time to thoughtfully assess and connect with new followers like I used to.

Similarly, the timely, personal engagement I value so much is difficult on this scale … and it’s only going to get worse. The benefits I’ve received from engaging and connecting on Twitter are literally incalculable. I don’t want that to go away.

Keeping the blog going at a high level of quality and engagement/comments  while maintaining a demanding work schedule has sometimes meant 17 hour workdays. My wife is starting to notice.

I used to take pride in closely following every blog (that I knew of) from the {grow} community.  Our readership is doubling every few months.  I can’t keep up with that like I used to either.

A year or so ago I asked a “celebrity” blogger how he handled it all — Blog community, 80,000 Twitter followers, and all the trimmings –  and he said, it’s like being a rockstar on a stage. There might be 20,000 people who want to engage with you but you can only slap the hands of the people who have made it to the front row.

I hated that description but am now starting to see some truth in it.

There have been some half-hearted discussions among the Twitterati with large tribes about dropping their accounts and starting over. That just sounds like a dumb idea.

First, it is incredibly disrespectful to the sincere people who are following you: “What? You’re dropping me because you’re having time management issues?”

Second, why would I want to miss the benefits of the incredible connections I have nurtured? And finally, the audience build-up is just going to start all over again any way, right?

Another strategy is to stop following people back to contain the level of the noise. That is just not me. I’m not here to “broadcast” like Seth Godin or Guy Kawaskai.  I know the true benefit of Twitter is connection. And that is not just social media rhetoric.  I’m living proof of the amazing benefits of this platform if you approach it in a spirit of authentic helpfulness.

The idea for this post came when I was tossing about in bed feeling guilty for not following through promptly with some Twitter friends who had asked for help. I’m not kidding.

My friend (through Twitter!) Dr. Sidney Eve Matrix described it well during our discussion the other day. “Not connecting on Twitter is like being too tired to walk the dog,” she said. “Will the dog survive? Yes. Will you survive? Yes? But you’re still feel going to feel guilty about it because you’re ignoring a responsibility.”

“Responsibility?”

Yes, responsibility.  In my mind there is definitely a responsibility that comes with having a community on the social web.  It’s an honor that you’re here.  I want to do a good job for you. I want to engage with you, if you want to engage with me. I think acknowledging responsibility to your audience is the difference between being a leader on the social web and being a douchebag on the social web.

This is kind of a strange post and I hope this doesn’t come across as whiney.  I know I have been very blessed by this social media community. But as we continue on this journey together, I felt like I needed to truthfully check in to let you know I’ve crossed an invisible line into some new territory and I haven’t figured out.

Will I be able to keep it up?  No.  Not like before.  I just don’t see how.  This road is taking some new turns and the path ahead is foggy. What do you think?   After all, at some point you might be in this position too.  Perhaps you already are?

Twitter time-savers: Tweet success in just 20 minutes a day

“How much time should I spend on Twitter?” is a question I get asked repeatedly. And last week one person upped the game by asking, “But what if I only have 20 minutes a day?”

OK, I accept the challenge!  Here are my thoughts on being an effective Twitter-er in only 20 minutes a day. I’ve divided this into two categories — 20 minutes a day for beginners and then experienced folks.

The 20-minute challenge for beginners

In a world focused on “engagement” and “conversation” I’m going to give some unconventional advice — Forget about it for a few weeks. If you’re a beginner and can only spend 20 minutes a day on Twitter, concentrate on building a relevant tribe of followers. Two reasons for this:

  • You’ll become disheartened trying to engage with people if there is nobody interesting to engage with and
  • Twitter is simply boring if you’re only following 12 people and you’ll probably quit. Critical mass means following at least 150 active tweeters.

So in the first two months, tweet at least once a day so people see that you’re active, but spend half of your time finding and following interesting people.  Don’t worry if they follow back or not. That will come in time.

In this related post on building influence through Twitter, I’ve listed some easy ways to identify and follow interesting people who are relevant to your business and interests. And if you’re just starting out and need some advice on what to tweet about, here is some help on that topic.

Now for the other half of your time, spend it reading, and occasionally responding to, tweets from your new friends.  This will give you the chance to see what kind of tweets you like, which is instructive when you start tweeting more heavily yourself.  If you’re unfamiliar with the quirky language of Twitter, do a search for one of the many tutorials that are out there. Most people quit in the first two weeks, so hang in there and get help if you need it!

The 20-minute challenge for pros

Let’s face it, if you’re really immersed in Twitter, the challenge is probably how to not spend ALL your time on this addictive little channel!  Once you have surrounded yourself with an interesting tribe, it’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” and follow link after interesting link.

Now that you have built up a critical mass of followers, it’s time to take advantage of this amazing resource and engage and build meaningful connections.  Here are a few time-saving corner-cutters:

1) Get in the habit of sharing. You’re constantly reading on the Internet any way, right?  It’s so easy to share an article, post or video these days by clicking on that little Twitter “share” icon.  Don’t worry what it’s about. If it’s interesting to you, it will probably be interesting to your Twitter friends, too.  Just be yourself and let your Twitter audience find YOU!

2) If you’re only spending 20 minutes a day, do it at different times of the day so you have the chance to interact with a broader range of people.

3) By now you’re using some kind of an organizing tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, right?  It’s an excellent way to improve your efficiency by helping you focus on those who are actively connecting with you.

4) One of the most time-efficient Twitter strategies is to look for opportunities to re-tweet posts. This has two important benefits. First, you’re providing interesting and meaningful content to your followers with little time investment on your part. Second it is a way to connect with somebody and compliment them with a tweet.  And don’t just re-tweet the same people all the time.  When you can, glance through the whole Twitterstream and look for opportunities to connect to new folks.

5) Another great time-saver is using a Twitter app for a smart phone. Use those idle minutes waiting to pick up the kids at school!

Can you keep up with everything going on? No way. Not even if you spent 10 hours a day!  Being effective in 20 minutes a day means knowing how to use these time-saving tips and then having the discipline to prioritize. Here’s what works for me:

  • My first priority is to see who has mentioned me in tweets.  I don’t take that for granted. People are reaching out to me and trying to connect, so I want to engage with them, even if it is a simple “thank you.”
  • Next, I look at direct messages and quickly sift through the spam to make sure I don’t miss something important from a friend.
  • I have my TweetDeck set up with columns with marketing thought leaders, people who are active on my blog, local friends, and other topics.  I scan through each column to see what some of my favorite people are saying and look for opportunities to engage and re-tweet.
  • I’m constantly reading throughout the day and clicking the “tweet button” to share interesting articles. One problem I have is that I tend to share in chunks, so I will be inactive for most of the day and then send a flurry of tweets because I’m in reading mode. That may be annoying to some followers. Of course it is possible to schedule tweets to even things out through various services including HootSuite but that takes a little more time and the idea of “scheduling” tweets seems fake to me. A personal choice.
  • Don’t forget to show you’re human. If you’re in a queue some place, write a quick tweet to let people know what’s going on in your day.

Those are a few of my ideas for saving time and still being an effective citizen of the Twitterverse. What’s working for you? How do you spend your time most efficiently on Twitter?

Creating a content marketing plan — without any content

When somebody talks about “content marketing,” they’re really talking about “content engineering” — scientifically optimizing documents such as blogs, case studies and white papers to create search engine results and sales leads.

This can be an extremely complicated, time-consuming and expensive proposition! So I started thinking about this in the context of my friends and small business customers who simply can’t afford that kind of effort.  It led to this idea:  micro-content, or marketing content when you don’t have time to produce content!

Let’s examine ideas about micro-content that even a time-starved business owner should be able to master in 15 minutes a day …

Preparation

Like any marketing initiative, you must have a firm idea of your strategy, selling points and target audience.  Spend time thinking through a set of keywords that represent your business and your customer needs. You’ll need to weave these keywords into your micro-content.

LinkedIn forums

If you’re like most people, you have a profile on LinkedIn and haven’t done much with it. This platform is a goldmine of opportunity to create micro-content!

There are about 600,000 groups on LinkedIn covering every imaginable business interest. You’re sure to find one with like-minded people who might be interested in you.   If you are in a very specialized field, consider starting your own special interest group.  Make sure you use relevant keywords in the title of the group so people can find you.

Look for some Q&A sessions within relevant groups and get involved. Simply answering questions is providing meaningful content that can attract attention to you and your website.  I’ve personally made some fantastic connections and acquired my two most profitable customers just by answering questions in LinkedIn Group Forums.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and helpful so people can learn about you.  In the “specialties” section of your profile, list your keywords!

Twitter

This is the ultimate site for making connections through micro-content. In this separate post, I’ve provided some helpful ideas on building a targeted audience through Twitter. It makes no sense to work on micro-content on Twitter if you have nobody listening!  Here is a suggested micro-content regimen if you’re just starting to tweet.

1) Create a habit of sharing — When you read something that interests you, share it on Twitter. It takes but a moment.

2) Leverage your network — If you’ve surrounded yourself with interesting people, they’re providing great content. When you find something great, re-tweet it! You don;t have to generate everything yourself.

3) Try following the “3 x 3 x 3 rule” — If you’re new and trying to figure what to do, tweet three times a day, at three different times of the day, on three different subjects:  a) interesting non-work-related information you saw, heard or read; b) news related to your business, market or industry (use keywords), and c) your opinion on an item in the news or something funny. Pass on links and snip your URL’s!

Remember that micro-content is still supposed to do the job of big content — drive people to action on your website. Of course you need to include your website in your profile and use your keywords in your bio.

Comments

Commenting on relevant blog posts, videos, and Facebook pages is a quick and easy way to deliver micro-content that links to your website.  Here are some examples:

  • A small business owner I know commented on a magazine’s Facebook site and was invited to send her product to the editor for coverage.
  • Adding your comment to relevant YouTube viral videos can create impressions with thousands of people who are interested in a related topic.
  • My comment on a popular blog post contained a link to my website which is still receiving hits nine months after I posted the comment. That’s not unusual since posts on popular topics can have a long “shelf life.”
  • Comments on my blog have resulted in new business partnerships, guest blogs, and freelance assignments for my readers.

I find that comments can carry even more impact when they’re “micro.”  People will read a few sentences, but probably scan a few paragraphs.

Re-purposing micro-content

There are so many great benefits to blogging but this is usually the place time-starved marketers stumble. Think about re-purposing your micro-content on your website as a blog, even if it only happens once a month:

  • Cut and paste answers you’ve already provided on LinkedIn and blog comments as new, unique posts.
  • Start a blog post with, “I found this interesting article on Twitter …” and share the great content on one of your tweets.
  • Share a relevant article, video or blog post from a trade publication and simply write a few sentences commenting on it.

In summary …

These are just a few of the ways you can effectively network on the social web with a “sprinkle” of content instead of a flood.  Obviously there are hundred of other ideas I’m sure you can share with the community but this is at least a start that a small business owner can work on 15 minutes a day.

Cleaning house on Twitter: A drama in 10 tweets

Part ONE.  The curtain rises.

There was a brouhaha on the Twitterstream recently when Spike Jones, a blogger and SVP at Fleishmann-Hilliard, challenged some people by name to delete their huge Twitter accounts and start over.  The original (excellent) article sparking the discussion by Leah Jones can be found HERE and a follow-up post by Spike, HERE.  The idea of eliminating followers created a  … stir.

Part TWO.  What’s the fuss?

I presented this drama because … well, I couldn’t resist it.  Antagonist, protagonist, love, hate, a leading lady, conflict and resolution in 10 tweets? Give me a break. Who doesn’t enjoy a good drama? Plus I found it refreshing that a few folks on Twitter actually showed up as real people.

So besides the question of honor and bileful little men, what raised this ruckus?

The idea that “numbers don’t matter” is one of the most emotional subjects I’ve witnessed on the social web.  It’s our precious little secret: Most people pretend they don’t care, but they do.  Here is the yin and yang of the social media “numbers.”

YIN

The number of friends or followers might be a reasonable indication of a person’s presence on the social web.

… YANG

But for Pete’s sakes, treat EVERYBODY with respect.  All too often I see people forgetting that there is a real person behind that little icon.

YIN

Larger numbers of followers can enhance reputation. I recently saw Chris Brogan present and he admitted honestly that he has 180,000 followers “but half of them are spammers and porn stars.” In some (rare) cases, quality of followers really doesn’t matter. It’s a badge.

… YANG

Quality of followers should matter in most cases. Why would you knowingly surround yourself with porn stars …. unless you’re a porn star? I want to surround myself with relevant, interesting people.  My audience is a public record of who I am.

YIN

In many cases, large number of followers can deliver higher numbers of potential connections, business benefits and information.

… YANG

Even with wonderful utilities like Tweetdeck, it’s a stretch to have a meaningful connection with more than a couple hundred people.

Part THREE. A simple truth about followers.

So, there are arguments both ways.  But let me give you another perspective.

When I became active on Twitter, a young lady followed me with a provocative profile picture. This was at a time when porn folks were absolutely over-running Twitter and I was blocking them as fast as I could. The next day this same young lady wrote to tell me she was a university student in the U.K. and was following me to learn from me. She was disappointed that I had proven to be so elitist by blocking her and not including her in my audience.

Obviously I corrected the situation and apologized, but here’s the lesson I learned — I need to consider it an HONOR to have interested followers.

I realized that Twitter is not necessarily about me, what I gain out of it, and what’s convenient to meet my needs.   Every person on the other end of the tweet has their own reason to connect to me too. Eliminating them wholesale as Leah and Spike suggests seems disrespectful to good people who followed me in good faith.

I realize this is a very personal point of view and may not fit for you, but what are your thoughts about cleaning house on your followers?

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